Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

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Making the News

[Note: This LJ is hereby declared a zombie-free zone for the duration, thankyouverymuch. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're better off ignorant of it, mumble, grumble. Yes, I'm being humorless. No, I'm not telling anyone else what to post in their LJs.]

I was working from home this morning. Around 11 or so, just as I was getting off the phone with my company's IT support folks (Windows having locked me out of my account again; it happens a lot right after a required-every-90-days password change), I got a call. I recognized the voice. He introduced himself: "This is Mike Sugarman. I'm a reporter for CBS-5...."

"I know who you are," I said, "I recognize your voice from KCBS radio." Sugarman does "About the Bay" features for KCBS as well as reporting for their sister television station, KPIX channel 5.

He explained that he'd got my contact information from Gary "Mr. Roadshow" Richards of the San Jose Mercury News, that they were doing a story about people who had changed their driving behavior as a reaction to higher fuel prices, and would I be available for an interview.

"Sure," I said, and explained some of the things I've done. Thanks to the cooperation of my employer, I'm working from home at least one day a week, and even when I do go to the office, I generally work from home for a while in the morning and then drive in later, off-peak. I also generally keep my speed down to 55 MPH on the freeway and do a lot of the things we're told save gas, like not rabbiting away from stops and coasting up to red lights.

Sugarman said they'd be interested in possibly shooting some video of me if I was available today. I said I probably could do something, but warned him that I was down in Fremont. He said he'd get back to me.

I got back to work. Somewhat to my surprise, an analysis job which I'd not thought would be done until late today fell together very quickly. I sent it off to the senior engineer involved (he's in Seattle) saying, "I think we're actually finished; let me know if I've missed something." A few minutes later, Sugarman called me back and said, "Can we meet you somewhere closer to San Francisco? We really don't have enough time to drive down there."

Thanks to the project being finished early, I could do so, and suggested we meet at my office in San Mateo. "How soon can you be there?" He asked.

"About an hour," I said.

"Fine; we'll meet you there at 12:30."

So I quickly pulled myself together and sent an e-mail to Seattle briefly explaining the situation and saying, "Call me if something comes up; I'll fix it at the office later today." And it was off to San Mateo. Note that I didn't hurry; I used my normal driving techniques, and arrived with a bit over ten minutes to spare.

The cap I wear in the van (to keep my hair from getting attracted to the headliner) is a bit ratty, so I went in to my office and got one my Con-way company hat. I was already wearing my "Menlo Worldwide/Team Australia" shirt, which I often do when working from home to sort of stay focused on being on the job, you might say.

Shortly after 12:30, they called me -- there was confusion over the address, and I "talked them in." They pulled into our lot in a KPIX TV truck with the dish on the roof. Sugarman introduced me to the camera operator/truck driver, and I'm so annoyed at myself for having forgotten her name. She and Sugarman were both very nice, and we chatted about the story they were going to do, and I filled them in on some of my back story.

I'd already parked out in the part of the lot away from the building where nobody else parks -- I do that anyway, to give myself a longer walk in and out of the building for the exercise, but it was convenient for them today. She got the camera gear out and produced a lavalier microphone. She started to explain that she needed to wire me up for sound. I said that I knew what a lavalier mic was and was very cooperative.

The technical setup and talk of microphones and technology gave me an opportunity to explain to them some of the things I've done, like Match Game -- I told them that I'd bought an ECM-51A microphone on eBay like Gene Rayburn's, and how I do game show recreations at science fiction conventions. He seemed interested, and we spent a couple of minutes digressing into the theme songs for Match Game -- the one he hummed was "A Swinging Safari," the theme from the 1960s show, which was nothing at all like the 1970s incarnation.

While they were setting up, Sugarman got a call. That's when he learned that this story, which was originally scheduled for today, had been bumped, and that after they finished, they needed to go to Sunnyvale to shoot stuff for another story airing tonight. That's okay, though, as Sugarman says it will give them more time to edit the material together, and he'll let me know when it's actually going to air.

Then it was time to go to work. Sugarman interviewed me on camera, with my van in the background. Then we did some close-up shots of me showing him my mileage log and demonstrating that my mileage had gone from the 16-17 MPG to the 19-20 MPG range just by slowing down and doing the other things. I admitted that part of that was due to the relatively boxy shape of a 1989 Astro, and that a big van like that is never going to be a mileage champion, but that I'm not in a position to afford a more fuel-efficient new vehicle.

Hoping to give him some good quotes, I said, "From my point of view, gas is only two dollars and seventy cents a gallon, because I'm getting twenty percent off for improved fuel economy. Would you slow down ten miles an hour to get a sixty cent per gallon discount on gas?"

Then we needed "background" footage. The camera operator shot footage of me getting into the van, buckling my seat belt, putting on my mobile phone headset, starting the van, and pulling out of the lot. Now each of those was a separate shot, with pauses in between. I understand the reasons. She said that she prefers to "edit in camera," and I told her I know about "shooting in sequence," that being when I mentioned my two Doctor Who movies we made at Chico State in 1985-87. (I did not have to explain what Doctor Who was, thank goodness.)

As it happens, Sugarman has a child attending CSU Chico. He said, "What's the first thing people say about going to Chico State?"

I rolled my eyes theatrically and said, "Party Time!" and I told him that I was going to Chico the year of the Pioneer Days Riots, although, having seen that trouble was brewing, I got out of town on Thursday and stayed away until things cooled down. I reassured him that CSU Chico really is a good school and that anyone who wants to get an education there will be able to do so.

Anyway, after we did the shots of me driving away, I came back and they decided they wanted some shots from inside the vehicle. The operator took her camera down off the tripod and loaded it into my van. To save time, Sugarman would drive the TV truck. She told him, "Don't wreck my truck!" and we all laughed.

She first got in the front seat and we drove up Campus Drive and along Hillsdale Blvd. to give her some usable footage. Then we got onto CA-92 and down the hill, with her asking me questions and me answering them -- some of the material might make it into the piece.

We stopped at the Arco station off Delaware Street so she could move from the front to the back seat and get some different angles. I had anticipated this might happen and had cleaned out the back seat area before leaving home today.

We then got back on the freeway and merged onto US-101 southbound. After a couple of miles, she said she figured we had enough material, so I pulled off at the Ralston/Marine exit and drove to my old office at One Lagoon Drive. This was a convenient place for Sugarman to pull the TV truck in as well.

To finish off the story, she set up the camera on the corner and filmed me driving away. And so, after about an hour of shooting footage, we were done and they headed off to Sunnyvale. (I did warn them how to get out of the One Lagoon parking lot and get back to US-101 without having to first head east and make a U-turn.)

There is of course a certain irony that this was a story about saving fuel and I ended up making an extra 50-mile trip to San Mateo to accommodate filming it, but it was an unusual circumstance, and Wednesday isn't my usual work-from-home day anyway. I am still pretty happy at how things seemed to turn out. I will post here when the story eventually airs on KPIX, and it should be available on their web site after it airs as well.

I do wish I'd had an opportunity to wash my van, though. The right side is covered with the results of parking under a tree full of birds at BayCon, and I'd not gotten around to cleaning it off.

Update, 21:10: Changed post title and added a postscript.
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